A key strength of the eCommerce channel and platform is the flexibility it provides to quickly act and react to changing market conditions and consumer shopping preferences. This flexibility allows a retailer to quickly change their offerings and methods of both shopping and delivery without high capital investments. This would seem to be a dream come true to retailers and I would expect retailers to increase their focus on eCommerce channel as the consumer shopping habits and preferences are realized and understood. This flexibility will allow retailers to quickly react and change in a continuous improvement process.
The flexibility however must start with a strategy and vision for development and implementation. Flexibility does not just happen, it must be a key principle objective and design strategy. This means that retailers must aggressively replace technology and applications that do not support a high level of flexibility. This may be the greatest obstacle to overcome for many retailers and especially the larger retailers. Many retailers bolted an eCommerce application and technology onto their existing supply chain and ERP to provide the additional channel for sales. This does not support the omni channel strategy very well and is not a flexible foundation on which to build and deliver the omni channel strategy.
The key to a successful omni channel strategy is an iterative change process, or as I have promoted all along, a continuous improvement process. Think towards the future and the unknown requirements and design a framework that can essentially provides plug and play functionality capabilities. Your eCommerce platform provides two essential processes for your future success; the sale process and the consumer communication process. The essential framework for your future success is a flexible and component based framework.
You should look to utilizing each of your platforms, or outlets to the consumer, for their strength and that means that you must focus on the sale and not the platform. Embracing a strategy of flexible outlets to the consumer will also drive changes to your organization and culture. You will need to eliminate the bottlenecks and the silos across organizations with the intent of opening avenues of communication and information. You must focus on what the consumer is telling you and then you can respond through your flexible outlets, whether retail store or eCommerce.
The pace of change over the last five years has increased dramatically and while I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, I do know that the rate of change will continue to increase. Another thing that I do believe very strongly is that the retailer must stop thinking and organizing into channels (outlets to the customer) and focus solely on the sale. The consumer is already thinking solely about the purchase and not the method or channel in which they purchase and the retailer must think in the same manner.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience? Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?